DENVER — After more than a year as a Denver city councilwoman, Amanda Sandoval's career has recently been hanging on six words.
In a Monday night City Council meeting two weeks ago, Sandoval was responding to the proposal of a bill to replace the city’s police department with a "peace force," brought forward by fellow City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca.
"I support a lot of your initiatives," Sandoval told her. "I support a lot of things that are going on. But it's the same violence that is happening in our community. It's Black on Black. It's brown on brown."
The language she used to express her sentiment about lateral violence in her district was not well received. Booing could be heard inside the council chambers, where some citizens were watching the meeting. That very night, #RecallSandoval was already being posted on Twitter and other social media platforms.
A few days after the meeting, a racial justice organization called the Afro Liberation Front (ALF) planned to take the issue a step further – with a protest in front of Sandoval's home.
"I think it should be equally understood the amount of pain it causes when I see women of color who are elected officials not only making, but endorsing statements that I and others view as racist," one member of the group later said.
Sandoval said the biggest reaction she had was from seeing her home address put out on Twitter.
"Not because of me. I ran for city council, right? But I bring my family along with me. I have two teenagers. And it was seeing their reaction, and my husband's reaction to having our home address put on Twitter that caused a reaction in me," she said. "It was scary."
But protesters never came to her door.
On the Thursday evening following Sandoval's initial comments, and as members of ALF made their intentions to march outside her home public, CdeBaca got involved, tweeting, "What if instead of this, a town hall or roundtable on blackness and internalized oppression in the Latinx community?"
Sandoval agreed and Friday, the day of the planned protest, the ALF organization did too, responding: "In light of recent developments we would like to postpone the action that was originally planned for this evening. While we remain angry and disappointed in Councilwoman Sandoval's actions, we have come to the decision that we could like to allow her to explain her initial comments & apologize.
"However, we need 100% accountability & transparency on her part. We want accountability for her actions that have helped police. We want effective measures for the communities that she & others like her claim to represent. If this is not something she follows through with, we will move forward with an action to hold her accountable."
A week and a half later, on a Tuesday night, an anti-racism town hall between the Afro Liberation Front, Sandoval, CdeBaca and a host of other community leaders came to fruition. The conversation led to a meaningful and educational opportunity for thousands of viewers, as well as Sandoval herself.
"I have learned a lot about language and the evolution of language," Sandoval said after the meeting, "and the evolution of terminology, and how different communities come together and talk about the lateral violence that is going on within their neighborhoods."
Sandoval said she made those initial comments on the same day she saw a disturbing video of a 16-year-old Latina gunshot victim in her district, the same age as her Latino son. She added, however, that she'll never use that type of phrasing again.
"It's been a wonderful opportunity to expand and to grow and to hold myself accountable, most importantly," she said. "It’s not about having to apologize. It's about hurting other people and taking accountability that I caused that and saying, I'm sorry."
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